Holiday stress can harm financial fitness

Everyone knows the feeling of waiting in long lines and shopping desperately for long hours for just the right gift. What's worse, the avoidance of checking account balances with mobile banking could mean more than just a shrinking account. For some, it indicates a lack of balance and long term planning that Americans need, especially with the economy in constant flux.

There are a number of ways to cut stress and avoid overspending this season, two things that consumers must strive to do. If the recession of the last few years taught us nothing else, it's that being frugal can still be festive.

Cut the cards
Do not bring credit cards to the store. In fact, leave them in the bottom of a dresser drawer until after the holidays. Now that a majority of shopping is taking to the internet, it's tempting to sit on Amazon or eBay and click a dozen things, only to be hit with the bill plus interest in a few months. This financial plan applies in any situation and any kind of spending. Heading to the mall with $100 and a plan to buy for at least half your list forces you to work out some alternative financial planning before jumping on overly expensive gifts.

Know your recipients
If you're buying for every single person at the office, your child's PE teacher and your mother-in-law's accountant, chances are you're buying too many gifts. Buy things for the people closest to you and make sure they're things they really want, even if they aren't expensive. That way, you're guaranteed a successful purchase no matter how much you spent. Inc Magazine recommended cheaper personal gifts will be far more appreciated than expensive ones.

Rewards cards
Remember those cards you stashed away? Leave them right where they are, but check and see what kinds of rewards you can cash in from previous purchases. Many companies offer gifts and monetary exchanges for points earned throughout the year, making these ostensibly free gifts. Other websites may also allow for free gift cards and other prizes for buying certain items or filling out surveys, but make sure they're legitimate before using them. American Express just rolled out their points system, PC Magazine wrote, so card owners should check their new balances before going shopping.

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